BWW Interview: MSMT Launches New Public Film Series
The rain was pouring down outside and the aroma of fresh hot popcorn wafted through the Morrell Meeting Room as a sizeable crowd gathered on this gloomy Friday evening at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick to enjoy a new public film series, created by MSMT, hosted by Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark, and facilitated by Olivia Wenner, Group Sales and Outreach Manager. The project, part of MSMT's community outreach program, is entitled Film Fridays and offers free screenings in HD and surround sound of three movie musicals which will be produced in their stage versions this summer at MSMT. The movies are then followed by a talkback with Curt Dale Clark, moderated by Broadway World Maine Editor Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold and - to add a little levity and spice - by a special trivia contest with prize of two complimentary tickets to MSMT's stage show for the winner.
The first screening of the 1955 classic Guys and Dolls took place on May 5 and was well attended by MSMT fans, supporters, and patrons new to the theatre community. Clark explained that the idea for the series was born both of a desire to preview the musicals to the public before the summer season in the hopes of "sparking interest in attending the live productions and of the wish to give back something to the community that has been so loyal to MSMT."
"When you launch something new, you never know who will show up," Clark told the clearly enthusiastic crowd during the talkback, "but you did, and we are thrilled that you did and that you love MSMT!"
That the audience was enjoying every moment was clear. Frank Hazelwood won the spirited Guys and Dolls trivia contest, and the questions and conversation following the 125-minute film were lively and engaged. Clark began by commenting on some of the reasons for the changes made in the 1955 movie from the 1950 Broadway show - changes which included omitting a number of songs and adding other new ones. He opined that "the casting choices of Brando, Simmons, and Sinatra especially mandated a number of these alterations."
"I love this movie for what it is, but for the stage, Brando's was not a voice that could have played Sky Masterson. It is a little bit like last year's LaLa Land," he noted referring to the award-winning movie musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. "Lots of people didn't like it because they felt the lead actors couldn't sing like Broadway performers, but I preferred to see it for the movie it was. I thought they did a great job with the material even though they would never have been cast for the stage. The same is true for this Guys and Dolls movie. Brando, Simmons, Sinatra had that charisma [Vivian Blaine did play Adelaide on stage] that made people want to come to see the movie and the show."
Continuing this line of comparison, Clark commented," I think movie musicals are separate and different from the stage versions. For example, the recent film version of Les Misérables. That movie played to more people in one month than the stage version reached in its entire lifetime. Movie musicals (like stage productions) celebrate our life's work. And movies can get the message to more people much faster and give the opportunity to people who might not be able to afford a theatre ticket to see the show."
Discussing the visual aspects of the stage version and the movie, Clark commented that while the Goldwyn-Mankiewicz film stuck as closely as possible in many scenes to the look of the original Broadway stage show and used large chunks of stylized performance such as the three Runyonland sequences, it also introduced heavy doses of realism as in the Havana scenes. "That's where we theatre people hate movie folks because on screen they can snap their fingers and make a transition happen. On stage we have to work to do that and to keep the audience from losing their interest. When Guys and Dolls was produced on Broadway, it was what we call a "in-one show." You'd see a big scene; then the curtain cones in and a few people play a scene downstage from the curtain while the set is being changed behind it. The movie doesn't have to do that. In fact, this movie created such iconic images, like the sewer scene, that subsequent stage revivals copied these images. Our MSMT will not copy the movie, however," he added with a smile. "Ours is going to be completely original!"
The remaining two events in the Film Fridays series will feature Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John on May 12 at 6:00p.m. and on May 19 the original 1992 movie of Disney's Newsies, which inspired the 2012 Broadway show - NOT the recent Fathom events live video of the stage show; it stars Christian Bale and Robert Duvall. Inviting the audience to come back, Clark said at the close of the first evening: "We hope to see you all next Friday for Grease, and we'll not only have a new trivia contest but we'll have sing along lyrics for those of you who want to join in. So spread the word that Grease is the word!
Listen Live to an excerpt from the Guys & Dolls Talkback:
Photos stock images & courtesy MSMT
Film Fridays movie and talkback continue on May 12 at 6pm and May 19 at 6:00 p.m. in the Morrell Meeting Room, Curtis Memorial Library, 25 Pleasant St., Brunswick, ME - Free, open to the public, popcorn served. 207-725-8760 ext. 1-18